It's been an amazing few years for young rookie forward Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes.
From scoring 77 goals in junior with the Kitchener Rangers, becoming the youngest player ever to play in an NHL All-Star game and leading the NHL rookie scoring race for the majority of this season, it would be easy to watch a young hockey player get a little big headed with so much quick success. But that will not happen with Skinner.
Hurricanes trainer Pete Friesen told me during the weekend that this kid is "the real deal, respectful, hard working, humble, passionate, enthusiastic and clean living. He is a throwback to old time hockey, but better."
It was Pete DeBoer, Florida Panthers Head Coach who first drafted him for the Kitchener Rangers. Former NHLer, now trainer extraordinaire, Gary Roberts told Paul Maurice that this kid would make the Hurricanes this season prior to training camp. Maurice who had not seen Skinner play prior was immediately impressed with his work on the ice, but overly impressed with his work off the ice.
Skinner comes from a family that cares more about education than a career in sport despite the success all members have in that area. The only time Kitchener Rangers head coach and GM Steve Spott ever heard from Skinner's father Andy was when he was checking up on Jeff's schooling. Andy didn't have to do too much checking as Jeff's marks led him to be the Rangers scholastic player of the year.
But the most impressive thing I found out this week about Jeff Skinner is that he appreciates where he came from and who helped him get there. In November 2010 he sent a note to the Kitchener Rangers organization that eventually was read to the players prior to a game. The e-mail shows Skinner's passion for that organization, but more importantly shows that he is mature beyond his years.
"Spotter, I am writing this e-mail to thank you for all you and the Kitchener Rangers organization has done for me.
I am sure that choosing to go to Kitchener has been the biggest benefit to my hockey career so far. Although it is a bit unfortunate I wasn't able to improve on last year's playoffs. I am counting on this year's team to do it anyways (I will follow closely as a proud alumni) and expect to be watching the Rangers in Mississauga in May.
A lot of guys talk about how it is easier to play up here because everyone knows where they are supposed to be and the higher the skill level (of their line mates). But like you said, you cannot play up here if you don't play the game the right way (at least you won't play long).
So thank you for teaching me how to play the game the right way and more importantly making me play it that way. I could thank you and the organization for a lot of things, the opportunity, the playing time, the accountability you held each guy to and the professionalism you showed as coaches.
I remember several meetings in your office that made an impact on me, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most and had stuck out more and more as I approached 10 games was the meeting I had with you and Fixy at the end of the Saginaw series.
You pulled me in after a couple of video sessions and told me 'You know what would be the best for me and Paul is to have you continue playing the way you are and have you for 4 or 5 years and you score 60 goals and we win a championship or two. But that's not what we are here to do, we are here to put players in the NHL.'
That meeting to me demonstrated a lot about the character of the organization and its coaching staff. I think that meeting also shows one of the few small details that makes a huge difference in what separates the Kitchener Rangers as the best organization in Junior hockey. Thank you for that meeting and everything else you have done for me."
Not too shabby for a kid that received his driver's license at the start of this season. I think the kid is all right!
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